The Best Parenting Advice: More than Just Good Enough

This morning, the snow is fine glitter resting in the crevices and dips of the frozen earth. Two mourning doves sit in the walnut tree, feathery puffs hunched in on themselves. My boys have a snow day—an extended holiday—so we make French toast for breakfast and listen to Drew Holcomb on Pandora. I dance in front of the stove as I hover over a sizzling skillet. “This is a good song to make French toast to,” I say, waving the spatula in the air like a conductor’s baton. “Whatever you think,” the 16 year-old says in bored tones, his mouth full of bacon.

Outside, the sky seems bluer—what for all the white—and inside my heart feels a fine dwelling place, a safe place for these two I love beyond measure.

A couple nights ago I awakened in a panic, a web of dreams closing in on me—fears of all we are doing wrong in the parenting of these two boys we’ve been entrusted with. I lay still in the dark, thoughts stabbing into my lungs, making it difficult to breathe. I prayed scripture aloud, grasped around for assurance in my mind, until my fists opened slowly under the blankets, and—palms up, I drifted back to sleep.

This morning, these two experiences rest in my heart in precarious balance. I am thinking about a book I read a couple years ago, and a quote that keeps returning.

…If there is one thing developmental psychologists have learned over the years, it is that parents don’t have to be brilliant psychologists to succeed. They don’t have to be supremely gifted teachers…parents just have to be good enough. They have to provide their kids with stable and predictable rhythms. They need to be able to fall in tune with their kids’ needs, combining warmth and discipline. They need to establish the secure emotional bonds that kids can fall back upon in the face of stress. They need to be there to provide living examples of how to cope with the problems of the world so that their children can develop unconscious models in their heads.—David Brooks, The Social Animal

And as I ponder what Brooks means when he says that parents just have to be good enough, I arrive at that same place I did the first time I read it: Love. Scripture says that love covers a multitude of sins. Will it cover a multitude of  mistakes I’ve made in this parenting thing?
Maybe most of the fruit of parenting is high up on the tree … it’s not until late in the season it will let loose and fall into our waiting hands. But, sometimes, I just want to climb up the trunk and shake those branches, don’t you? And maybe, providing kids with stable and predictable rhythms, maybe giving kids a living example … maybe that requires something more than just good enough. I chafe under those words, just good enough. Because … there is nothing easy about just good enough by these standards. It sounds like it happens by accident—just good enough. Maybe part of it does … But I call this thing grace, not an accidentAnd there is hard work, deliberately weighing this thing out, trying to plan for the best.But so many times in this parenting journey, there is the opening of the hand under the blankets of life, surrendering it all to God. Sometimes, you just have to make French toast. 
There are no guarantees, this I know, but maybe … just maybe, that’s one reason why we need more than just ourselves. 


  1. says

    I’m counting on the fruit falling in later seasons … every now and again, I hold a piece in my hands. This gives me hope. And God – the Hope-Giver, he is the Author therein. So grateful for the hands that hold me so that I, in turn, am better able to hold the hands of the four who call me momma.

  2. says

    I wrote a blog post…grace for the gaps…God’s love fills the gaps….covers all…redeems all…and I love this…a commenter left this acronym…gaps…God always provides and supplies!!!

  3. Amy Hunt says

    Yes. Grace. And yes, surrender. The kind only He can do in us, as He allows us to realize we really, truly need Him. The getting to the bottom of ourselves, I think, is the grace, too — it’s’ show He leads us to Him.

    With you, friend. In the surrender. In the grace receiving. In the trusting. Shalom.

  4. lindalouise says

    I will just add my “yes” Laura. In this empty nest, I sometimes lie awake rehearsing all the mistakes and failures of the past. I struggle to find the good enough. But in the light of day I see these amazing adults (who still look like children to me) and know that where I failed there was grace. And love does cover a multitude of sins it seems.

  5. says

    Me too, Elaine, me too. There is so much more of the story to be written. And I can cower in fear or trust the One who holds me. I don’t always choose what’s best. I thought this would get easier! But I know you that each season brings it’s own worries. Nice to see you here. Love you, lady.

  6. says

    I don’t know why it sometimes seems so hard, this opening of the hand; and yet, it releases such the burden. I don’t have to do this thing alone. What a beautiful gift. Happy New Year, Amy!

  7. says

    Do you remember this discussion over at The High Calling, Megan? That quote really freed me up in so many ways. My pastor was talking about one of the lists of ‘begats’ in the Bible where it alternates good and evil kings. A good king begat an evil king and the evil one, in turn, begat a good one. She said that this shows God wants us to know that our parent/child relationship doesn’t determine our salvation…It is something that has to be lived and believed by each person. This is hard for me, but opening my hand is getting a little easier the more I practice it. Love you, friend.

  8. DeanneMoore says

    Unbelievably timely…crazy that I opened this post at this moment. Jeff and I were talking about this subject not five minutes ago…our last one still at home….all three still kids in our hearts. I don’t know if you remember “the lump” chapter in Jean Fleming’s book? Her lump was a ‘daughter lump’, but I think more often we carry the parenting lump—an overwhelming grief from sin and regret. Jean suggests God can use our ‘lump’ if let him or Satan will use to destroy if we aren’t aware. Our lump might even become a limp that reminds us to lean into the forgiveness of God for the mistakes we’ve made, and those our children make/are making/might make! 🙂 Waiting on the fruit to fall…believing it will.

  9. says

    I’m not sure there is a parent on this earth that cannot relate to regrets, going back over the past of wishful thinking, wondering when the fruit will drop. You say things so beautifully Laura. I’ve had some of the same thoughts lately myself and then I release them open handed, just like you are doing. It’s daily.

  10. soulstops says

    I love that image of you opening your hand to surrender your parenting and your children to God, while also opening to receive God’s grace….oh, how I know I need grace in my parenting as I am well aware of my weaknesses and failings…Happy New Year…so grateful for you and your friendship…especially happy we got to talk as we rode in Nancy’s car after LL.

  11. pastordt says

    Man, I loved that book. The first one I did with THC, I think. And I adore this quote – because it’s absolutely spot on. No, we can’t see the future. And sometimes the present is terrifying. And every once in a while, there is an anomaly, a severely broken or injured or damaged child (often drug related, sad to say) whose future is bleak, despite the love of good parents. BUT most of the time, most of the time . . . love and a little borrowed wisdom is all that is required. You’ve got that in spades, dear Laura. In spades.

  12. Sylvia R @ says

    My first lively reaction in reading this post was to laugh out loud, hearing my own son’s younger voice from the past, coming through that bacon-muffled mouth, saying, “Whatever floats your boat, Mom.”
    My second was similar to your response to the excerpt from The Social Animal. As I read what David Brooks called “just good enough,” I thought, wow, all that stuff he mentions seems pretty hard and high-reaching to me! I never achieved it all in the time I struggled through the teen parenting. But what you come down to, love, that’s what ended up counting. Because despite it all, a son knew I loved him, even amid all my bumbling and falling short.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *